How to Become an Orthodontist

Become an orthodontist can be a very long and demanding process. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, only six percent of dentists will actually do the training required for this particular specialty. Orthodontists straighten out teeth with braces, retainers and other similar tools.


Before you can attend dental school, you will have to get your degree. Most dental school candidates have either bachelors or master's degrees. A few individuals are accepted who have a two year degree in an area of dental or medical specialization.

Consider majoring in nursing or medical science and studying such things as biology, chemistry, and physics. Once you have your degree, you will need to pass the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) before you can go to a dental school that is accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA).

 After four years of studying things like anatomy and biology as well as various social sciences in dental college, you will ultimately earn your Doctor of Dental Science (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD).

Then, you will need to enroll in one of the 67 accredited orthodontic programs available in the U.S. and Canada so that you can learn more about your specialty, a process that usually takes another two to three years. Lastly, you will have to pass the College of Dentists Board exam.

Start a Practice

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for orthodontists should grow about 9 percent over the next few years. As a result, there should be lots of opportunities for qualified individuals. If you want to start your own practice, you will need to pass a written and clinical test given by the American Board of Orthodontics in order to become certified and demonstrate your proficiency.

Since it is not easy to start you own business, you might want to consider working as an associate orthodontist with someone who is already established, so you can learn what you need to know about running a successful business. Also, before starting your own practice, you will want to consult with people like lawyers, other dentists, and successful business people to get their help in determining the steps you should take to start your own practice.

Remember you will be not working all alone in your office. You will need a good team of people who can help you with such things as scheduling, finances, and explaining treatments to patients. Most commonly, you will be required to hire an orthodontic technician, an instrument and clinical coordinator, and possibly a laboratory technician as a part of your staff.

Job Duties

As an orthodontist, you will be correcting jaw abnormalities, misaligned teeth and overbites. So you will have to know how to properly fit your patients with retainers, braces, and other dental appliances. In addition, you may be called on to perform oral surgery, reconstruction and other types of therapy to improve your patents' oral health.

Ultimately, you will also be responsible for changing your patients' appearances and giving them greater self confidence, a job reward that is certainly worth all the time and trouble involved in pursuing this particular career path.